The 2010 North American Frost and Sullivan Award* for New Product Innovation of the Year has been awarded to Canadian company Solegear, for its 100 percent biobased Polysole plastic. According to Solegear, although many of today’s biopolymers come from a natural feedstock, they are compounded using synthetic additives. Polysole, however, utilizes proprietary additives that are entirely natural and organic. The non-toxic plastic is claimed to have high impact and tensile strength, and can be efficiently processed using conventional techniques such as extrusion, blow molding and injection molding. Its biodegradation point can also reportedly be tweaked, so it can maintain its molecular integrity until product-specific compost conditions are met.

Polysole is said to be similar to nylon in price and performance. One application for which it’s not ideal, however, is the handling and storage of solvents and greases. In those cases, customers could try Solegear’s other plastic, Traverse.

Traverse combines natural fibers from sources such as rice husks, with traditional petroleum-based plastics such as polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene. According to the company, the result is a product that has the strength and other performance characteristics of regular plastics, but that incorporates less environmentally-unfriendly ingredients. One version of the plastic, Traverse Recycled, contains up to 98 percent recycled plastic and fiber content.

Solegear’s Toby Reid informed us that it can sometimes even be less expensive than these plastics in their pure forms, as the natural fibers it contains are less costly than the polymers they’re displacing. This is subject to the fiber percentage stipulated by the client, as Traverse can contain up to 60 percent natural material.

Unlike Polysole, however, Traverse is not completely non-toxic, nor is it biodegradable.

Solegear plans to initially focus on consumer goods, although it hopes to eventually expand into automotive, electronics and medical applications.

* Frost and Sullivan is a business development firm, and its awards are "presented to companies in recognition of making an outstanding contribution to their respective industries or achieving a competitive or customer-based leading position in the market."

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